Review: Omega Seamaster 300 Ti-Tant-Gold
You can, by all means, go ahead and buy a Rolex—well, if you actually can—but before you do I recommend you pause, wait a minute and check out these five reasons why you might not.
Omega Is The Daddy
When people colloquially refer to themselves as the daddy, it’s not usually meant as some sort of aggressive claim to paternity, more a self-awarded declaration of one’s dominance. Omega, in relation to Rolex, is actually something more of the former. By the time a genie supposedly whispered the word “Rolex” in founder Hans Wilsdorf’s ear, Omega was already fifty-seven. An older father for sure, but still no Jeff Goldblum. No one is like Jeff Goldblum.
And a young Rolex doted on Omega, and with good reason. The very name “Omega” came from the manufacturer’s incredible production calibre of 1894, so-called because it drew an outdated era of watchmaking to a close and ushered in a new, technologically advanced one. No longer did every component have to be hand-modified—read: bodged—to fit; the level of accuracy achieved meant every part was easily interchangeable, decreasing production time and increasing quality. By 1903, two years before the birth of baby Rolex, Omega’s revolutionary production process had turned it into Switzerland’s largest manufacturer of watches. It was awarded the Grand Prize at the Universal Exposition in Paris for its contribution to science and industry.
This laid the groundwork for Rolex to even exist. The breakthrough allowed movement manufacturers like Aegler to produce high quality, affordable calibres that would go on to be used by Rolex to power its watches. Without Omega, Hans Wilsdorf may have never had the opportunity to give up a promising career in Switzerland, come to England and start putting movements into cases in his pokey Hatton Garden shop where Rolex all began. That’s why Omega really is the daddy.
It’s A Top Trumps Winner
Back before the internet, there was top trumps. Top Trumps is a boasting game, where through arbitrary luck, you are dealt a selection objects within a theme—some good, some not so—with which you must selectively belittle your opponent to score points. Think of it like … all of real life. How does a hand play out between a Rolex Submariner and the Omega Seamaster?
What they both do well is be dive watches. With 300m of water-resistance apiece, you’re well covered for underwater adventure. Both watches have on-the-fly fine adjustment in the bracelets and quick release dive extensions. For serious deep-sea diving, however, you’ll have to upgrade the Submariner to a Sea-Dweller to get the helium escape valve that comes standard on the Seamaster. Remember, this is top trumps—whether or not that has any impact in your daily life is irrelevant. This is about winning.
When it comes to the driving force of these watches, it’s just as nip and tuck. The Omega calibre 8806’s 55-hour power reserve doesn’t quite match the updated Rolex calibre 3235’s 70—partly thanks to Rolex’s lightweight, energy efficient Chronergy escapement—which means taking the Omega off at 10pm Friday night and picking it back up again 8am Monday morning, it won’t still be ticking like the Rolex will. And where the Rolex offers -2/+2 seconds per day accuracy, the Omega’s in-house METAS certification loses out a second at 0/+5.
But what Omega’s 8806 does edge ahead on is tech. There’s the Co-Axial escapement, a near-frictionless alternative to the 3235’s Swiss lever arrangement, and the silicon balance spring, which gives greater levels of resistance to magnetism and shock than Rolex’s Parachrom alloy—no matter how small. It’s a close call, but the Omega has it.
Tantalum Isn’t a Robot Spider
Unless you knew any better, you’d think Rolex uses some pretty exotic materials. Rolesor, for example, and Rolesium. Sound pretty rare and unusual, don’t they? They do—up until the point its discovered that the former is just steel and gold used in a watch and the latter steel and platinum. Not as an alloy or some fancy compound—just next to each other in the same watch.
This Omega Seamaster pulls a similar visual trick, but with perhaps a little more imagination, pairing not steel and gold, but titanium and gold. The gold is of the rose variety, tinted with copper and other bits for Omega’s secret SednaTM gold blend—the posh version of KFC’s herbs and spices—and that in itself is pretty unusual.
But that’s not all, because there’s something else going on here too: tantalum. Tantalum isn’t marketing speak for titanium and gold used together like Rolesor and Rolesium, nor is it the name of a robot spider in the Transformer series—it’s an entirely different material. A metal to be precise, a very rare one, rarer and more expensive than gold, one that is somehow both ductile and easy to fabricate, yet very hard, and one that is almost completely immune to corrosion. The unusual blue-grey hue isn’t bad either.
Tantalum is not often seen in watchmaking, popularised—for want of a better word—by masters F. P. Journe in the long-sold-out Chronometre Blue. If it’s good enough for F. P. Journe, it’s more than good enough for everyone else.
You Could Save £100 (Or More)
One of the common reasons for buying an Omega over the equivalent Rolex is the price. You could save money. A steel and gold Submariner, for example, has an asking price of £11,450. This ti-tant-gold Seamaster, on the other hand, will save you—oh. It’ll save you a whopping £140. But the comparison really isn’t fair because, for one, whilst both watches sport flashings of gold, the titanium and especially tantalum here in the Omega are much more costly than steel. If you want a Seamaster in Rolesor—steel and gold—you’ll save two-and-a-half thousand over the Rolex, almost enough to pick you up a whole extra Tudor Black Bay 58. Compare like-for-like in steel and you’ll be saving an enormous £3,200, enough for the Black Bay 58 with change to spare.
And for two, the Rolex is not a watch you can walk into a shop and just buy brand new. There are … difficulties. The upshot is that if you do buy one new, the immediate increase in value as you walk out the jeweller’s door will give you enough to buy both the ti-tant-gold Seamaster and the Black Bay 58. It’s like karma—it all works out in the end.
Can You Say No To That Face?
This is the part that’ll get people rowdy, because now we’re going to talk about personal preference. The Rolex Submariner is a watch based on a long line of very functional, very minimal watches—and not because of some sort of creative direction, but because Rolex could not afford to make fancy-looking watches. Tell you who could though: Omega. Why Omega was so revered back in its day is because it not only innovated technologically, but it also dished that fancy tech up on a silver platter.
Its watches have always been ornamental, sculpted into complex shapes for no more reason than to look nice. You take a squint at this Omega and you’ll see how that spirit lives on. It may be a rugged diving watch, but the flowing lines remain ever present, the finishes considered and balanced against one another.
You take the Rolex by comparison and it is plain and simple, and that’s fine—although somewhere along the line it has found itself halfway between the no-nonsense instrument it used to be and the commitment to luxury the Omega still is. Squared off lines and simple designs furnished with glossy, lustrous materials—whilst not unattractive by any means—lose out something to that original ethos on which Rolex was founded. I get that looks are subjective, but there’s no denying the Omega is the one that respects its past the most.
The great thing about all this is that you are very welcome to ignore it and you will be absolutely fine. It’s not like I’m telling you to wear your seatbelt or look both ways before crossing the road. Whether your heart beats for the Rolex or the Omega, you’re gonna have a good time. What is important to me, however, is this: if you are dead-set on a Rolex and your trigger finger is itchier than a burlap sack full of bedbugs, consider Omega. You don’t have to buy one, but you absolutely should consider one. Or … you could save a load of money on either and buy the Black Bay 58 instead.
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